Care homes sector has been undervalued for too long

 Theresa Fyffe 4 Jun 2020

Many long-standing problems faced by care homes have been brought into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Theresa Fyffe says these problems must not simply be allowed to fade into the background as the route to recovery is plotted.

Young hands holding an old lady's hands
The mood of the nation is lifting a little as lockdown eases ever so slightly, and it’s very tempting to start thinking that there’s light, not an onrushing train, at the end of the tunnel. However, not only is the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 infections very real if we don’t all still adhere strictly to government guidance, the pandemic has brought into sharp focus major problems that pre-date the beginning of this crisis. Problems that must not simply be allowed to fade into the background as the route to recovery is plotted.

Care homes have in many ways borne the brunt of this crisis, despite the commitment of staff, communities, residents, families and friends to try to keep everyone as safe as possible. Too often in the past few months care homes have been behind the curve when it came to solutions – shielding, staffing, access to PPE, testing, have all proved especially problematic for nursing and care staff in Scotland's care homes. The consequences have been tragic for many. That cannot be changed now but what has happened should not be forgotten.

The problems care homes have faced during the crisis have, in many respects, been symptoms of how the sector and the people that live and work in it have been undervalued by society for far too long.

Another problem the COVID-19 emergency has brought to the fore is the recruitment crisis facing the sector. This is another long-term issue that hasn’t received the widespread attention it deserves. The need for registered nurses within care homes has increased. Registered nurses have the clinical skills and knowledge to respond to residents’ changing needs, managing medication, monitoring deterioration and overseeing infection control. Their leadership and oversight supports the wider team of carers and care assistants.

The imperative to deliver safe, quality care to residents of care homes with increasingly complex health needs is not new. More people are talking about it since COVID-19 threatened the fabric of society at all levels and in all environments. But it would be a failure of huge proportions if we do not learn the difficult lessons of the pandemic and tackle head on many issues which have, for years, been placed in the ‘too hard to do’ box. 

Theresa Fyffe

Theresa Fyffe

RCN Scotland Director

@TheresafRCN

Theresa Fyffe has been RCN Scotland Director since 2007 and is a former Deputy Chief Nurse for Scotland, experienced clinician and nurse manager.

Page last updated - 04/11/2020